Update: Indications are that Madonna’s “Living for Love” started receiving some pop radio attention over Valentine’s Day weekend. Whether that will manifest in the form of a significant number of official radio adds–or a prominent position on the airplay chart–remains to be seen, but it does suggest that programmers have not yet completely written off the song.
In conjunction with its December iTunes debut, Interscope Records serviced Madonna’s “Living for Love” to radio as part of a soft launch. Despite the buzz surrounding the first Madonna release since 2012, “Living” commanded a mere ten pop radio spins in its first tracking week.
Undoubtedly disappointing, the performance was theoretically excusable. The release came during radio’s traditionally inert holiday season and was part of a soft launch rather than a formal impact. The hope was that the song’s official 2015 radio release would command more interest.
It technically did, but one would be hard-pressed to call its official radio launch a successful one.
According to Mediabase, “Love” was added by only fifteen pop stations in conjunction with Tuesday’s radio impact, and no such add was from a station in a major market (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, etc).
It tied Calvin Harris’ “Outside,” Nick Jonas’ “Chains” and Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” as the week’s eighth-most-added pop songs. The difference? None of those three songs was formally impacting this week, all already have support from major market stations and all are already top 40 hits (“Outside” is already a top 20 hit, while “Chains” is in the top 30).
While a first-week add count of 15 is neither objectively terrible nor a sign that a song will never make waves on the airplay chart (Meghan Trainor’s phenomenon “All About That Bass” received fifteen adds on impact), it is discouraging in this particular context.
An iconic artist like Madonna is not one that pop radio programmers need to gradually discover; they know her and the level of music industry buzz that surrounds her new releases.
Insofar as it has been around since December and was showcased during Sunday’s 57th Annual Grammy Awards, “Living for Love” is also far from an unknown. Interscope and Madonna had more than a month to build buzz around the song and had ample opportunities to maximize awareness. The result was a modest first-week add count that trails that earned by Walk the Moon’s crossover effort “Shut Up and Dance” (17 adds).
And that song comes from a rising alternative act with effectively no pop radio cachet and thus a far more significant opportunity to build its brand.
Should they aggressively spin the song, the early supporters could help “Living for Love” garner traction at radio. The song is by no means “dead” at this point.
But the weekly adds report does definitively reveal that the song is not starting its radio run with massive support. It is not debuting at pop radio from a position of power.